Students celebrate Israel’s birth

Emily Dalnodar

Israel celebrated its 51st birthday Wednesday.
While people in the homeland celebrated with rock concerts and all-day parties, members of the University’s Jewish community listened to Hebrew folk songs and passed out birthday cake and Israeli food to passersby.
The young nation represents more than just a country to people of the Jewish faith. It’s a symbol of solidarity and freedom — a nation that still struggles every day to hang on to what people fought so diligently to attain.
“In 51 years it’s developed into something every Jewish person can be proud of — scientifically, economically, spiritually,” said Yaniv Schwartz, a statistics graduate student.
Schwartz was among about 20 students gathered at Northrop Mall on Wednesday afternoon to share in the spirit of Israeli independence with a small party hosted by the Hillel Foundation, the University’s Jewish student center.
“We want to have a celebration, but we want the campus involvement,” said Renata Batuner, Hillel co-president and College of Liberal Arts junior. “The Jewish community is such a small population on campus, so we’re trying to create awareness of our presence.”
Though free cake facilitated non-Jewish involvement, the chilly weather deterred too many people from staying to hear about the importance of Israel to the Jewish community.
“When I’m in Israel and I’m celebrating independence, it’s an unbelievable sense of people getting together and an incredible sense of pride,” Schwartz said. “It’s only been 51 years, so you have dads who fought for independence and presidents who fought.
“Unfortunately, there is constant threat all the time, and every person, every day, is fighting for our independence,” he said.
Israel won independence from British rule in 1948 immediately following the Holocaust. Jewish people had no safe haven at that time, and a lot of other countries closed their doors, said Amy Olson, Hillel’s director.
The land once called Palestine was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for 500 years before falling into British hands. Though Britain considered relinquishing control of Israel before the Holocaust, the mass exodus of Jewish people from Europe during World War II proved the strongest catalyst for giving Palestine to the Jews. Still, Jewish residents fought with other would-be controllers of the land before they could establish an official homeland.
“It isn’t only something we’ve fought for one time, but it’s been in the back of the Jewish people’s minds for 2,000 years, and we’ve only recently attained it,” Schwartz said.